In the first in a series of virtual events during the lockdown, and to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, the IOMBN were joined by representatives from Public Health Isle of Man, Isle Listen and FreeMyMind to talk on the importance of mental health in the workplace pre, during and post pandemic.
To complement this session and in the spirit of the theme of this year’s national event (kindness), Alyssa, a community psychologist in the Isle of Man, kindly shared her top tips for cultivating a positive mindset regardless of your environment:
1. Self‐reflection during lockdown
Use this lockdown period as an opportunity for reflection. This experience has brought with it major changes to our daily lives and routines, and many of us are spending more time at home than we ever have previously. This can provide a rare chance to slow down and reflect on those things which are most meaningful to us. By identifying our values, we can start to plan how we want our lives to look once the world returns to “normal.”
How do you identify your values? First, try to ask yourself how you’ve been coping since lockdown began. If you find that you’ve really struggled, what is it that’s currently missing from your life? For example, you might find that you really miss having a routine; daily social interactions; feeling a part of your community; or going to work. On the other hand, if lockdown has provided you with a sense of relief, this can also be a vital clue. What is it that’s improved about your daily life? Have certain activities or obligations been put on hold? Have any unhealthy relationships been extinguished? Have you had more time to relax, focus on hobbies, or reconnect with family?
Once you can pinpoint what has changed – and how it’s really made you feel – you can decide what you’d like to carry forward into your post‐lockdown life, and what you’d like to leave behind.
2. Find new, creative ways to incorporate meaningful activity into your day
For many of us, one of the most difficult aspects of daily life during the pandemic has been the restriction of our usual activities. We’ve suddenly found ourselves unable to meet up with friends, go to the gym, volunteer, or play sports, among many other things. This can leave us feeling as though something important is missing from our lives, potentially leading to low mood, boredom, and feeling without purpose. It’s very important to explore whether any of the activities you previously enjoyed can be adapted and made more lockdown‐friendly.
Several businesses and charities on the island and beyond are live‐streaming all kinds of content for free, and they’re definitely worth checking out! You can attend virtual exercise classes, religious services, webinars, and play games online with friends and family. Consider checking in with local Confidential Information charities on the island to enquire whether you can volunteer your time remotely, or take free classes online through the University College Isle of Man.
3. Change your relationship with your worries
Imagine you’re standing at a train station, watching as trains arrive at the platform and leave again. Several trains come and go, and each head in a different direction. Do you jump on the first train that arrives, regardless of where it’s going? Or do you stop, observe the trains as they pass, and wait for the train that’s taking you in the right direction?
Our thoughts work in a very similar way. All day long, various thoughts will pass through our minds. Some of these will be helpful and positive; some will be neutral; and some will be negative. If we ave a thought that worries us, it’s very easy to jump on that “train” of thought and follow it to a destination of anxiety and stress.
Rather than jumping on every “train” that arrives at our platform, try to instead practicing just stepping back and observing. Like the trains, thoughts will come and go. You can notice the thoughts and worries that you’re having without necessarily latching onto them.
If you find that a “worry train” has pulled up at the platform, take a moment to evaluate whether this is a problem you can realistically do something about. If it isn’t, allow that train to leave the station without you as a passenger. Bring your mind back into the moment: notice where you are, and what you can hear, smell, see, taste, and feel. Bring yourself back to whatever activity you were doing, and try to focus on this fully. If you notice your mind wandering or another worry train arriving, allow yourself to notice it and then bring your mind back to the present again.
4. Focus on what you can control
Anxiety during a pandemic is normal. The constant bombardment of news, frightening statistics, and conversations dominated by the virus certainly don’t help, and the uncertainty of it all can leave us feeling completely out of control. There is a lot about this pandemic that’s beyond our control: how the government responds, how other people act, who may become ill.
Try to limit the amount of exposure to news about the virus you get each day. Rather than constantly searching on Google or Facebook for the latest news, perhaps promise yourself that you will only check once per day, and always make sure that you’re getting your information from a reputable source (the Isle of Man daily briefings, the World Health Organisation, etc).
Focus on what is within your control: things such as your daily routine, the people you interact with, the precautions you’re taking, and your self‐care.
5. Resist the pressure to always “be your best self”
Throughout the pandemic, it’s completely normal to feel stressed, worried, and low at times. Most of us have never lived through a period of such uncertainty and change, and we’re all doing the best we can to adapt. It may seem as though other people are really “thriving” during lockdown – learning new skills, getting in shape, and renovating their homes. There’s a pressure to be productive and your “best self” during this period which can cause undue stress for a lot of people.
If you’ve been struggling or feeling unproductive, you’re not alone. If you haven’t mastered a foreign language or redecorated your home, join the club!
Try not to compare yourself to others. Taking a break from social media, or limiting your time on these platforms, can do wonders. Remember that people typically only put their best selves on Facebook and Instagram – they’re not usually documenting times that they’ve felt lonely, worried, or spent the day in bed watching Netflix.
Instead, focus on your own health and self‐care. Try and get enough sleep, connect with people who matter, and pat yourself on the back for every day that you have survived this lockdown, because that’s exactly what you’re doing. These are difficult times for everyone, and sometimes getting through the day is more than enough of a “win.”
Chances are, you’re doing so much better than you realise.
If you feel that your mental health is deteriorating and you need additional support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the mental health services on island.
For further free resources on the subject of mental health, please visit www.islelisten.im. For future events from the IOMBN, please refer to our Events page or subscribe to our mailing list.